Retailer finds the right fit with Bing Ads
In 1825, while John Quincy Adams was being sworn in as the sixth U.S. president, two Quaker brothers in Somerset, England, Cyrus and James Clark, were creating a slipper using leftover sheepskin from their handcrafted rugs. Close to 200 years and tens of thousands of styles later, their legacy, Clarks, stands as a testament to business innovation, quality and visionary thinking.
As a family-owned business, the multibillion-dollar manufacturer and fashion retailer offers a rich heritage. To this day, its global headquarters still rest on the hallowed ground where the Clark brothers began. Long known for creating the iconic Clarks Desert Boot, the company remains true to a rich heritage of style, comfort, and quality. But don’t expect any pomp and circumstance here. “They’re just real people who happen to own a very successful, private company,” says Kylie Beals, senior director of digital and CRM at Clarks. Today, that continued success rests, in part, on using paid search advertising platforms like Bing Ads, and taking advantage of the extended reach of syndicated search partner sites on the Bing Network.
Bing Ads’ syndication partners help us reach more people who are looking for our shoes. They make sure we're in front of our audience, that they see our site and that they get the information they need.
— Gian Casimiro, Paid Search Marketing Manager, Clarks
Clarks paid search team
Clarks sold its first shoe in the U.S. in 1950. Today the company’s American headquarters sits in Waltham, Massachusetts, and has more than 300 stores and outlets nationally. There you’ll find a vast selection of shoes that flow in and out with the seasons. “We have thousands of different styles every year,” points out Beals. “Over a thousand per season online.”
Those shoes cater to both men and women. “It’s style and comfort for everybody,” says Beals. “Our Desert Boots, the Wallabee and the fashion-forward Trigenic are loved by both genders.” Paid search marketing manager Gian Casimiro, who wears his Wallabees as if permanently attached to his being, seconds that emotion. “Our ultimate goal is to keep consumers happy by providing quality footwear for any age of customer and need.”
Established women over 35 are the company’s largest audience. Most of them buy shoes in person, evenly split between wholesale and retail. About 10% of the retail side comes through the company’s website. That’s rather impressive considering the company has been actively running its ClarksUSA site since only 2011.
These days, millions of people visit the site monthly, looking for fashion statements and comfort. “We respond to the new ways consumers are interacting with brands and learning about products,” says Beals. “ClarksUSA.com is our most accessible storefront, which is why we use paid search advertising and Bing Ads to support that growth.”
Clarks has always used multiple paid search options. “We diversify as best we can so we can cater to all different types of people,” says Casimiro. “With Bing Ads, we can reach our target customer with the response rate we want from our ads.”
Because of all its distribution points (including a retail and digital presence with its wholesale partners), Clarks needs to ensure consistency across online avenues. “We look at our message on a holistic level,” says Beals. “At the same time, we localize where we need to and when it's most effective.”
With so many moving parts in play, the company prefers to keep paid search in-house. “It really allows us to collaborate across the business from macro search trends to buyers and merchandising,” responds Beals. “There’s a lot of value in having hallway conversations that spark a keyword idea or lead to incremental revenue.”
One of the key benefits Clarks sees with Bing Ads comes from syndicated search partner sites on the Bing Network. “Bing Ads’ syndication help us reach more people who are looking for our shoes,” says Casimiro. “They make sure we're in front of our audience, that they see our site and that they get the information they need.”
While other search platforms offer such networks, only Bing Ads gives such a granular level of control over how to interact with them. Beals colorfully compares the difference to buying a bag of candy. “With other platforms, you choose to buy the bag or you don’t, whereas with Bing Ads, you can also choose how much of the bag’s contents to eat and which flavors,” says Beals. “It gives you a level of transparency that really shows where your audience is coming from and how to optimize your campaigns for that audience.”
Using website URL reports in Bing Ads, paid search team members can see which partners are driving impressions, clicks and conversions. “These reports help us understand who these partners are. It’s a game changer,” says Greg Kristan, a paid search analyst at Clarks. “We can fine-tune who we want to serve our ads to based on what our audience is actually responding to. That type of insight enables us to be very effective.”
And with syndication, the publishers go through strict quality checks. Bing Ads has built-in controls to monitor network traffic quality and discount traffic as needed to ensure advertiser ROI is comparable to Bing Network O&O.
All of this has led to Clarks getting quality clicks for less. Overall, the company is getting more customers and has seen CPCs drop 23% since May 2016.
With Bing Ads, we can reach our target customer with the response rate we want from our ads.
Data provided to Bing by Clarks
Another surprising result with Bing Ads syndication was how the cost per acquisition (CPA) compared with the Bing, AOL and Yahoo owned and operated sites in the Bing Network. That number continues to shrink too. Since launch, Clarks saw the CPA improve 75%, with clicks up 10% and click-through rates (CTRs) up 13%. In fact, six months since first using Bing Ads syndication, Clarks saw CTRs increase by 380%. Most of this came from removing sites that drive a lot of impressions, but no clicks.
Today, 10 to 15% of Clarks web traffic comes from the Bing Network syndicated search partners, a fact not lost on the company. The conversion rate for this traffic improved by 150 % from May to November 2016. The result has been a large number of conversions in the first three-month time frame at a CPA similar to the CPA for the Bing, AOL and Yahoo owned and operated sites in the Bing Network. “It's really awesome,” raves Beals.
In addition to their strong enthusiasm for syndication, the company’s marketing team has derived a lot of value from the flexibility and functionality of Bing Ads Intelligence. “It’s a real hidden gem,” says Kristan. “The Excel plug-in gives you so many options, and the fact that it takes place within Excel saves you so much time.”
Part of the allure of the Excel connection is that analysts and marketing staff already use the tool on a regular basis. The Bing Ads Intelligence historical reports and keyword trends by device, gender or age, for example, are easier to digest because they’re in a familiar format. “It’s so much more efficient for so many things,” says Kristan.
Remarketing in Paid Search has also become a key ingredient within Clarks paid search strategy. “It allows us to have that second chance, to re-engage with users who’ve previously visited our site,” points out Casimiro. The company has seen up to 20% of its conversions through this feature. “We're trying to invest in people and technology that help us get everything possible out of all of the Bing Network’s owned and operated sites and syndicated search partner sites,” says Beals. “That’s really important to us.”
For its ads, Clarks uses Bing Ads extensions such as Sitelink Extensions, Review Extensions and Callout Extensions. Kristan especially likes the reporting that’s available for Sitelink Extensions, which are additional links in ads that take customers to specific webpages. “You can really get a clear picture about CTRs and other data,” says Kristan. “We're always calling out different product categories on our site, and having that extra messaging available for people looking for our shoes really helps a lot.”
These features and others have had a big impact on overall ROI. Clarks has seen an ROI with Bing Ads that is up to 25% higher than the ROI with other advertising platforms. As a result, Clarks has increased their spend on Bing Ads, which has become a large portion of their entire search program.
View or save the infographic to see how Clarks uses syndicated search partner sites on the Bing Network to boost its click-through rate by 380%.